Andrew Sullivan says the Republican Party should show support.

LEWISTON – Prisoners on death row can get married.

So can people declared clinically insane to the point that they cannot be held responsible for committing armed robbery, arson or even murder.

Even deadbeat dads who have no intention of paying overdue child support from their first marriages have the option.

But someone who is in love with a person of the same sex cannot. And that, Andrew Sullivan told a large crowd at Bates College Thursday night, is simply wrong.

An award-winning journalist and political activist, he often gets funny looks from people when he tells them he is gay and supports same-sex marriage.

A contributor to the Sunday Times of London, Time magazine, the New York Times and other national publications, Sullivan supports tighter spending, lower taxes and a stronger foreign policy.

He refers to President George W. Bush as a sincere person, a good man.

How can it be? people ask him. How can Sullivan be gay, how can he support gay marriage and still be conservative?

Sullivan has two replies: Being gay has nothing to do with politics, and, in his opinion, conservatives, who have long stood for fidelity, commitment and the protection of individual rights, should be leading the fight to stop Bush from amending the Constitution to specifically prohibit gay marriage.

“Marriage is one of the basic civil rights of man,” he said. “The gravity of this denial of civil rights is about as grave as it gets under constitutional law.”

He called Bush’s endorsement of a constitutional amendment an act of betrayal.

“I will not and cannot endorse this president after this amendment,” he said.

Sullivan told the crowd of students, professors and community members that he is offended by the president’s repeated promise to “defend the sanctity of marriage.”

That statement, he said, is a direct violation of the separation of church and state.

“This is emphatically not a religious issue,” he continued. “The president has no place telling people what is sacred and what is not.”

Sullivan, who is a practicing Catholic, said he respects any church’s decision to refuse to perform same-sex marriages. But, he said, civil marriages are different.

“If civil marriage is sacred, then why should it be given to atheists?” he asked.

After spending the last decade as one of the most visible advocates of gay rights, Sullivan said he is both excited and terrified by the fact that same-sex marriage has become such a hot topic.

He referred to it as a legal revolution.

“And, like all revolutions, it has now been taken over by the people on the ground,” he said, referring to gay couples across the country who have gone to their local city halls to ask for marriage licenses.

The notion that allowing same-sex marriages may eventually lead to the end of civilization confuses Sullivan.

“Heterosexuality is very robust,” he said. “And, as gay people, we know it’s essential. Without you, we wouldn’t exist.”

To those who support same-sex marriage as long as it isn’t called marriage, Sullivan says, “If it’s equality, call it equality. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, call it a duck.”

Calling it something else, such as a civil union, is comparable to telling a black man that he can sit on the bus as long as he goes to the back.

“It makes it all the more obnoxious,” he said.

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